Many years ago, I decided I wanted to write Western novels. These days it’s really hard to make a buck writing Westerns — or as they are sometimes know now, “historical novels set in the Old West.” It never was a lucrative genre, but it’s dear to my heart. I even know a couple of people — one of whom I’ve mentioned here — who’ve written and published a ton of Westerns. Even with their urging, and networking with/through them, there’s just not much out there.
But I’m a vain sort of person at heart (vain/vein?) so I’ve dusted off that part of my old hard drive and pulled up a novel I have three chapters written for. Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter. It’s pretty long, and I’ll admit it needs some proofreading and rewriting. I hope it doesn’t bore you. Please share any opinions or comments you might have. Here goes:
Barton “Goldy” Edington surveyed his handiwork and found it good. In fact, he thought as he pulled his watch out of the pocket of his expensive, elegantly cut vest, it was very, very good. He peered at the watch hands, confirming his sense of propriety that it was indeed late enough in the day to permit a small libation from the flask tucked away in his inside coat pocket. Following one more glance at his hand-painted “GOLD MINING STOCKS BROKERED HERE” sign and the attendant exhibit which had brought him such a handsome income in recent weeks, and after a careful look around at the dwindling crowd milling through his section of the Exposition Hall, that’s just what Goldy did–libate in a small way, removing the flask, popping its stopper, then whisking it back to its secure hiding place in his inside jacket pocket quickly and efficiently. He was sure no one in the passing rabble saw.
“Uh, excuse me, sir, but could you direct me to the Denver Telephone Company exhibit?” The voice behind Goldy caught him by surprise.
He was careful not to show that surprise as he turned, peering uncertainly at the small man standing nearby. The man was smaller, both in stature and in girth, than Goldy himself by perhaps a power of two. But that wasn’t too surprising. The good life in Denver in this modern age of 1882 had added substantially to Goldy’s immaculately costumed girth and he was perhaps unduly proud of his slightly over six-foot height.
“I said, Mister, can you tell me where to find the Denver Telephone Company exhibit.” The small man captured Goldy’s attention again and brought him quickly, firmly back from his mental wanderings. Perhaps the libation was larger than it should have been, Goldy mused. Or mayhap it came too closely on the heels of the last one. Ah, but it was such a fine day for a celebration. Goldy chuckled quietly, forcing himself to bring his attention fully around and focus down on the little man and his question. One mustn’t let past victories block the way to future excess, was his motto when it came to finding a grift and turning a profit.
“Yes, of course, my fine friend,” Goldy said, “the telephone company display is just down this lobby about halfway through the length of the Grand Hall. It would be on your left hand as you traverse the hallway, just past the hard-rock mining display cases.”
Even as he spoke, gesturing grandly to direct the man properly, Goldy had the feeling he had met the small fellow somewhere before. Perhaps in one of Denver’s many watering holes. Clearly, in his grubby buckskins and disreputable hat, the man looked more accustomed to the dens of South Broadway than to the finer quarters of Capitol Hill. Goldy pondered it as the man walked away.
“Goldy. Hey, Goldy, you wanted to know when Mr. Baron came into the hall. He’s here now Goldy. He’s coming right up the steps now to the main entrance. And Blackie ain’t with him.”
The raspy whisper at his side startled Goldy and he glanced quickly over at the source of the whisper. It was Skeeter. Suddenly, Skeeter’s words sunk in and Goldy was alarmed. Baron. Baron was here. It was time for Goldy to make a fast exit.
“Thank you, Skeeter, my friend,” Goldy smiled and shot a glance back at Skeeter. The wraith slid along the floor on his roller board, rapidly beating his own retreat toward the north lobby. Neither man wanted to answer to the wrath of Matthew Baron.
The only good news, Goldy noted as he slipped behind the curtains into a storage area near the south entrance, was the absence of Blackie Fenning. Curious, Goldy thought, curious indeed. Matthew Baron, though steeped in all the vices Denver’s flourishing underworld had to offer, tried to keep his hands clean in public. He would not be coming to carry out his threat against Goldy without his favorite strongarm, Blackie.
Barton Goldy Edington gave the matter one last thought as he angled off the storage area just past the building’s entrance and dove unceremoniously down a long chute directly into the Queen City’s underground sewer passageways. As he slid down the chute, several thoughts went quickly in and out of Goldy’s mind. Should he take the fork in the tunnels that led into the Platte River Bottoms drainage ditch, or should he try the dread but perhaps safer walk some 4 miles to the tunnel near the newly opened Union Station in the other direction? Perhaps something had happened to Fenning. Goldy, however, thought it unlikely that anything short of a natural disaster could even deter, much less disable, Blackie Fenning. Curious.
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